The Western Indian Flamingo is the Bahamian national bird, also known as the American, Caribbean or Rosey Flamingo. Our southernmost island, Great Inagua, is one of the biggest nesting spots in the western region, and this pink and coral beauty thrives on our ocean, sandbanks, and flats.
Maybe the name “flamingo” came from some variation of the word found in different languages around the world because a couple of those variations describe the flamingo’s color so well. In Portuguese, the word “flamengo” means flame-colored. In Provencal “flamenco” or “flama” is flame. There are six different flamingo species in a variety of colors and sizes, but the ones that reside on Great Inagua are the very visual definition of “flame-colored”.
With more than 50,000 birds on 287 miles of land in Great Inagua, visitors there have described the flocks as “pink fog” or a “swarm of bright pink”. Protected by the Society of Protection of the Bahamas National Trust, founded in 1959, visitors can look, but not touch. It is absolutely forbidden to hunt, harm or capture these birds.
“Phoenicopterus ruber” (meaning blood red feathers) is an apt description for these long necked social beauties that live in flocks of up to 340 birds. This particular species inhabits four main breeding sites over the entire globe and the Bahamas is lucky to be one of them.
- Great Inagua, The Bahamas
- Archipelago de Camaguey, Cuba
- Yucatan, Mexico
- Bonaire, Netherlands
Preferring salt water, these birds are seen year round, and are particularly visible during mating season. The female bird builds her nest sometime around April. This nest will become home to the one egg she lays per year. Once nestled in its warm home, it will take 28 days for a new bird to hatch.
Every Bahamian can identify our national bird, the flamingo. You will find it standing in its entire pink splendor on our country’s coat of arms and gracefully in flight on the coat of arms of the Bahamas National Trust. Beautiful indeed in print, but it’s a once in a lifetime experience, and one for the bucket list, to visit its Inagua Island home in the southernmost Bahamas and see for yourself its grace, beauty, and elegance.
Featured Photo: Artist Dede Brown, Installation in the Lynden Pindling International Airport, Nassau The Bahamas